Congress Members Brian Higgins and Kathy Hochul.
BUFFALO, N.Y. - Two members of Congress representing the Buffalo area are tapping their campaign war chests in an effort to save their seats from redistricting.
New records revealed by NYPIRG indicate Congressmen Brian Higgins (D-NY 27th) and Congresswoman Kathy Hochul (D-NY 26th) have hired high-powered lobbying firms to make their case to state lawmakers, who will draw the redistricting maps. As of mid-November, Higgins had spent $55,000 in campaign funds. He has hired former Assembly Majority Leader and Albany insider Paul Tokasz. Hochul, according to the report, has hired a $5,000 a month lobbyist.
Several political insiders tell 2 On Your Side that it is increasingly possible that Higgins and Hochul, who are friends and political allies, may be forced to face each other in a primary election, if both seek re-election in 2012.
It is important to note that no one is yet certain what the final redistricting maps will look like, or whether Governor Cuomo will approve them. A spokesperson for the Democrats in Congress says talk of a match-up between Hochul and Higgins is only speculation, and they don't see it happening.
Western New York's other member of Congress, Louise Slaughter (D-NY 28th), who is 82 years old, also is seeking re-election. She has the most seniority and clout among the local members. While she has no plans to retire, any decisions about her future also could affect the redistricting process.
Because of the region's shrinking population, most agree the Buffalo are cannot sustain three congressional districts.
"We only have enough for two," Political Analyst Bruce Fisher of Buffalo State College said. "And that means, probably, that Hochul and Higgins are going to have to buy a lot of help in Albany to get the lobbyists to try to help them save a district."
Fisher, however, believes it will be difficult for the two leaders to avoid facing each other.
"I think it's about numbers, and frankly, it's very difficult not to put Kathy Hochul Brian Higgins in the same district," he predicted.
A spokesperson for Congressman Higgins sent 2 On Your Side the following statement:
"Congressman Higgins has retained Patricia Lynch Associates (PLA) to represent him in the redistricting process. From 1999 to 2004, Congressman Higgins served in the state legislature with Paul Tokasz, a longtime Western New York legislator and former Assembly Majority Leader who is now a Partner with PLA. Paul has a long history of service to Western New York and understands what is at stake for Western New York in redistricting. The Congressman and Mr. Tokasz will be working all-out to ensure that Western New York maintains its voice in Congress."